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Lake County voters deliver mail-in ballots in person over fraud fears

Local supervisors of elections respond to lack of trust in USPS

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – On Wednesday, several voters in Lake County drove right past the ballot box watched by three security cameras outside the supervisor of elections office to park and make sure they hand delivered their mail-in ballot in person.

“I just want to be absolutely sure,” one voter said.

Another voter said they’re worried the post office wouldn’t handle their ballot correctly.

“I don’t trust the post office, so I’m not going to have them find my ballot in the back of a closet,” another voter said.

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Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays says he has seen an all-time high level of distrust in the election process this year.

Some of that distrust was also seen by a few voters in Orange County, two of whom News 6 saw on Wednesday drop their ballots in themselves, though workers were right nearby.

“To see me dropping it in by myself and make sure it gets to where it’s supposed to go to,” an Orange County voter said.

News 6 spoke to Patricia Brigham, director of the League of Women Voters in Florida.

“We are certainly hearing concerns,” Brigham said. “I can tell you that’s very unfortunate. There have been good studies about voting by mail, we do know a lot of shade has been thrown by voting by mail by our President.”

Brigham cited an April 2020 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, which said, “Despite this dramatic increase in mail voting over time, fraud rates remain infinitesimally small.”

However, Brigham did say concerns over post-office slowdowns are valid.

“I believe they are very valid concerns and very unfortunate that this has been happening in a critical election year when so many voters want to vote,” she said.

Brigham said the League of Women Voters is recommending those who vote by mail return their ballot by Oct. 13, even though the deadline is Election Day.

“We are strongly encouraging Floridians voting by mail to get your ballot in the mail by the 13th of October -- no later than two weeks before the election,” Brigham said. “There are extra precautions definitely that we are taking and recommending because of COVID-19 and because of the slowdowns at the postal service and so much mistrust has been shown.”

In a statement to News 6, the post office said, “The U.S. Postal Service’s number one priority between now and the November election is the secure, timely delivery of the nation’s Election Mail. The Postal Service is committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process when public policy makers choose to utilize us as a part of their election system. We provide election officials with a secure, efficient and effective means to enable citizens to participate in elections. The Postal Service is committed to delivering Election Mail, including ballots, in a timely manner.”

The Postmaster General issued an order to take effect on Oct. 1, which includes proper handling of all election mail. Click here for more details on that directive.

News 6 also emailed all of the local supervisor of elections offices requesting their responses to the confidence level of the vote-by-mail process this year.

The following immediately responded:

ORANGE COUNTY SUPERVISOR OF ELECTION BILL COWLES

"We have confidence in the service being provided by the USPS.

We have not had any formal meeting(s) with the USPS during this Election cycle. Staff does contact the appropriate Postal employee when we have questions.

We are pleased that they delivered the [majority] of our vote-by-mail ballots on the 2nd and 3rd day after we placed them into the system.

We have a steady stream of voters returning their vote-by-mail Ballots to our office. On Monday, we started our drive-thru drop off here at the main office. The same will be available at the all 20 Early Voting sites starting on Monday, October 19th.

We have a vote-by-mail tracking system on our website. Any vote-by-mail voter can verify their status on it.

I have said multiple times to reporters that voters need to take responsibility for their ballot. Don’t give it to somebody you don’t know. You drop it off here at our office or at the early voting site or place it into the mail system. You can verify your ballot has been returned on the website. No postmark does not count. The ballot must be here by 7 p.m. [on] Election night."

MARION COUNTY SUPERVISOR OF ELECTION WESLEY WILCOX

"I believe the USPS is doing a good job.

I, personally, voted by mail. I mailed it to my house, voted it and mailed it. The entire trip took 5 days."


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